Who is Sergey Gorkov?

So why do we care who this guy is? 

Sergey Gorkov runs the Russian bank VEB, or VneshEconomBank, and is thought to be a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gorkov's name has been in the news a lot lately, however, because of a meeting he had with White House adviser Jared Kushner after the election.

The White House says the meeting was brief and done for diplomatic reasons, while VEB says that the two met to discuss a private business matter. In any event, Kushner did not disclose the meeting when he applied for his security clearance, which raised eyebrows in Washington.

So this is concerning?

Not necessarily. But to understand why people are upset, you need to know a bit about who Gorkov is and what VEB does.

Let's start with Gorkov

Sounds good. Gorkov was born in 1968 in what was then the Soviet Union. Like many bright, ambitious young Russians, he was apparently attracted to a career in the intelligence services. He attended the academy of the Russian intelligence service, known as the FSB, and graduated in 1994. The FSB, for what its worth, is believed to have played a major role in interfering with America's 2016 election.

With the Soviet collapse and the diminishing of Russia's standing as a major power, Gorkov joined the private sector. In the mid-1990s, he worked at Menatep Bank, which was run by the Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He then went to work for Khodorovsky's powerful Yukoil in 1997 as the head of human resources.

Khodorovsky's star began to fade a few years later when he started getting involved in politics and became an enemy of Putin, who had ascended to the Russian presidency in 2000. The two battled, and Putin won. Yukoil was broken up by the Russian government, and Khodorovsky was sent to jail, along with a number of his trusted lieutenants.

Interestingly, Gorkov emerged from the kerfuffle without a scratch. After a time in London, he landed at the Sverbank, which is controlled by the Russian government. In 2016, Putin named him the head of VEB.

And what kind of bank is VEB?

Some would insist it's not really a bank at all. "This is not a bank," an analyst told the New York Times earlier this month. "We should rather treat this bank as a government agency."

Reports indicate that VEB is Putin's personal way of moving state money around to favored persons and projects, such as the 2014 Sochi Olympics. "It sends government financing to projects that the government defines…and the head of [VEB] is a de facto government official of the rank of minister or deputy minister," an economist told the Guardian in early June.

VEB was smacked with heavy U.S. sanctions following Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine. In 2015, U.S.-based VEB executive Evgeny Buryakov was arrested for espionage, sentenced to 30 months in jail, and was promptly deported back to Russia when his term ended in April. According to court documents, another member of Buryakov's spy ring reached out to and may have attempted to recruit Carter Page, who would later become a foreign policy adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign. 

Is Gorkov not really a banker?

Analysts think he's more than that, and that his connections to the Kremlin and the Russian intelligence apparatus are what allowed him to prosper after the collapse of Yukoil. "For me, it's obvious that he's a Kremlin agent, he's not just a banker," is how a former Gorkov associate described his former Yukoil coworker to the Guardian. 

What does this mean for the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election?

When Kushner eventually talks to Congress, his relationship with Gorkov and VEB will be a major topic of conversation. And we saw a small preview of what Congress will want to know when James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.

"What do you know about the Russian bank VEB?" Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asked Comey at that hearing.

Comey's reply: "Nothing that I can talk about in an open setting."